The goal of humanity

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drunken
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The goal of humanity

Postby drunken » Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:13 am UTC

I have been thinking a lot about the many seemingly unresolvable problems of society and the human race in general. It seems to me that the area of goals is conspicuously absent from most debate. It seems that if there was an ongoing public debate about the goals and aspirations of the human race that many issues that are always debated and never resolved would be at least much clearer and more manageable, if not trivial and obvious. Notably economics and politics seem like pointless subjects to debate without clearly expressed goals to work towards, just as any discussion of how one might travel from A to B is at best academic and ill defined without at least some information about the relative locations of A and B and the intervening terrain.

So the questions I would like to pose to this community of thinkers are:

1) What are our current goals, as a species and as a society?
2) What alternative goals can we think of that we might pursue
3) How can we evaluate such a collection of possible goals in order to decide upon one or more worthwhile ones to work towards?
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sat Sep 25, 2010 12:18 pm UTC

drunken wrote:1) What are our current goals, as a species and as a society?

I think it's an illusion to assume that there currently are any non-conflicting goals for all of humanity or even within any one society. The key here is to understand that practical politics are almost never the logically derived execution of any philosophically stringent ethical reasoning, but almost always emergent systems of various memetic and social pressures which contain contradictions, inconsistencies and outright conflicts of interests. The same can be said, by the way, about the drives within the human psyche of any one individual; people have much more complex (sub-)conscious goals and drives than the ones they ever formalize in any specific way.

drunken wrote:2) What alternative goals can we think of that we might pursue

Some political-ethical frameworks like classical utilitarianism, or negative utilitarianism, or libertarianism, do have relatively well-defined values\goals. For instance, negative utilitariansim mandates the strict minimization of suffering in the world. So already, there is no shortage of formalized, or formalizable, goal systems. The problem here is that these frameworks never reach actual poliitical consensus, and they often severely contradict each other.

drunken wrote:3) How can we evaluate such a collection of possible goals in order to decide upon one or more worthwhile ones to work towards?

Basically you're asking, "How can we close the is-ought gap, or at least try to get close to closing it?", because your question implies that there is such a thing as objectively more worthwhile goals than others. The short answer would probably be that you can't close it logically. You can jump the gap, which many people intuitively do, but then you have to deal with the fact that there are highly contradictive ways to do that, leading to very different resulting goals and values, and there is no realistic way of reaching a consensus for any one of them.

You might think that such simple goals as "minimize suffering" or "maximize happiness" or "maximize the average well-being" could reach a consensus, but not even that is true. There are always bullets to bite (e.g. utilitarianism can conflict with human rights, the strict minimization of suffering can conflict with allowing happiness etc.), and you can't expect all of humanity to bite any one of them. The practical future will be shaped by the memetic evolution which will drive ethics, technology, and politics in one way or another. The interesting question is whether this will result in certain tipping-points which change the entire nature of this game. There is hope in this prospect, but also grave risk, for any one set of ethical values.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby drunken » Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:29 pm UTC

All of that is straight out of the philosophy textbooks. I read some of those textbooks (well I skimmed through, I try and avoid getting too deeply into established philosophical ideas as I think it creates too rigid a mental framework and inhibits my ability to push the ideas further) and while I agree with the logic, I don't agree that it is the full picture. I totally agree that there are no non-conflicting universal goals but I don't think it has to be that way. Although I am unsure of how to establish any such goals I wanted to provoke a debate about them, as I believe an ongoing social debate about the goals of society will lead to it being present in people's minds to a greater degree. This was the goal here, and although I can't start a worldwide movement of reconsidering society's goals, I can start a small discussion on a forum, and it seems better than nothing. What I perceive at the moment seems to be a vacuum of goals, and the simple act of spending a few minutes thinking about goals and objectives can help give society direction, regardless of the inherent divergence of opinion. I also believe that it is at least conceivable that a continued and widespread debate on this topic could lead to the solidification of some of the current local goals and globalise them to a degree. It seems possible and preferable that in the next few decades the human race can achieve some consensus on some goals and objectives.

The ideas such as utilitarianism and libertarianism are centuries old (millenia if you care to trace their roots back that far) and they are somewhat stale for modern society. They have been modified and reworked in limited ways but a restructuring or even a totally new approach seems like it could be worth a try.

In short, it is about the process of discussing and thinking about goals for society, not about coming up with conclusive answers to the questions.

I also don't want people to be intimidated by the hardcore in depth philosophy here, often it is those people that are uneducated in these things that offer the best new insights.

EDIT: Changed the words "restructuring or even a totally new approach could hardly cause any harm." to "restructuring or even a totally new approach seems like it could be worth a try." to avoid the semantic argument below. Please don't start a new one about the meaning of the word 'worth' with regard to trying. I hope it is clear what I mean.
Last edited by drunken on Sat Sep 25, 2010 4:55 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
***This post is my own opinion and no claim is being made that it is in any way scientific nor intended to be construed as such by any reader***

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Dark567 » Sat Sep 25, 2010 3:47 pm UTC

drunken wrote:The ideas such as utilitarianism and libertarianism are centuries old (millenia if you care to trace their roots back that far) and they are somewhat stale for modern society. They have been modified and reworked in limited ways but a restructuring or even a totally new approach could hardly cause any harm.

In short, it is about the process of discussing and thinking about goals for society, not about coming up with conclusive answers to the questions.

I also don't want people to be intimidated by the hardcore in depth philosophy here, often it is those people that are uneducated in these things that offer the best new insights.

The idea that new goals(and it seems like we are talking about ethical systems) for the human race would define exactly what that harm was? This is actually a more open question than it sounds like. Does taking away someones freedom harm them? Does causing them pain? Emotional Pain? Being unfair toward them? Being unjust toward them?

As a far trying to come up with new goals, philosophers have been trying to come up with new ethical systems for hundreds of years. Could being uneducated give you some new insight? maybe. But I think you have a harder task ahead of you than your admitting.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Sharlos » Sun Sep 26, 2010 3:30 am UTC

To look beautiful, to cure old age, and to get rich are probably the main goals of a majority of humanity.

Only other worthwhile goal I can see being ideal for all of humanity to hold would be working to better preserve the human race's future and the environment we depend on. But the first three are pretty good.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Greyarcher » Sun Sep 26, 2010 6:06 am UTC

Humans don't operate as a unified harmonious bloc. It is only after much abstraction that you may arrive at a vague common goal. But the practical specifics of that goal and its pursuit are not common because of the disunity. Thus, the line of thought quickly becomes one of compromise and optimization in the face of conflicting peoples; then to laws and the structure of society or international relations; then, to a giant mess.

Similarly, society isn't really some solid goal-pursuing entity. If you were to ask, "What are your current goals, as people who live on the same street?" I would similarly find the question odd. You can lump people together under a common umbrella, but trying to paint them with the same goal-pursuing brush seems baffling and impractical.

We're distinct folks. Goal directed behavior is an activity of individuals, and individuals can also specifically choose to associate with other individuals to pursue a common goal; society and species is of a rather different nature.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby scarecrovv » Mon Sep 27, 2010 6:55 pm UTC

Goal setting is very important. You can't be effective at doing anything unless you know what you're trying to do. Unfortunately, since everybody wants something slightly different (and sometimes very very different), humanity as a whole doesn't have any goals, and is therefore not effective at doing anything in unison. We're not even all agreed that our very existence is a good thing, as groups like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement demonstrate.

Even on points where most people agree, such as the statement "Humans have entirely too many wars," there is disagreement about why this is so, and what should be done about it. Some people think the problem is religion, and that everybody needs to become an atheist. Other people think the problem is that there is more than one religion, and all the other people need to convert. Still others think emotion is the problem, and we should fix this with mind altering drugs, as seen in Equilibrium. Some think we need to spread Democracy across the world, and some want to do that by economic means, while others think it must be done at the barrel of a gun. Other people think criminals/terrorists are the problem and stronger police are the solution. Other people think the police are the problem. The list is endless, and that's just about how to reduce the incidence of war.

I wish you luck, but I don't see unified action towards a common goal on the horizon.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby drunken » Tue Oct 05, 2010 7:35 am UTC

Seeing the many comments about the virtual impossibility of achieving a universal human goal I feel compelled to remind the thread that such a thing was never the purpose of this debate.
Greyarcher wrote:Humans don't operate as a unified harmonious bloc. It is only after much abstraction that you may arrive at a vague common goal.

So who wants to engage in much abstraction with me, for the purposes of clarifying our own ideas on the subject and promoting debate about it in general.

So far we have:
Sharlos wrote:To look beautiful, to cure old age, and to get rich are probably the main goals of a majority of humanity.

Only other worthwhile goal I can see being ideal for all of humanity to hold would be working to better preserve the human race's future and the environment we depend on


and the idea mentioned earlier that we could base our goals on philosophical ideas of ethics such as utilitarianism.

I think that beauty is a waste of time, and also that it should happen naturally as a consequence of fitness for purpose. Similarly curing old age seems to be a selfish and superficial goal, but nevertheless one which may prove desirable in the future from the collective point of view. Naturally new and better methods of contraception would be required to make it feasible. Contraception by the way, is a crucial goal in my opinion.

I dispute that getting rich is really a goal. I like to remind people that money is imaginary even though deep down most people already know that. People who strive to accumulate wealth are in fact striving to accumulate either power, or happiness. I pity those that pursue happiness through wealth greatly, and wish them the massive amount of luck that will be required for them to succeed in this goal. The accumulation of power however I don't pity. This is, in my opinion the real goal of human society at present. I would like to hear the opinions of others on this however.
I don't agree with basing goals on outdated philosophical systems of ethics but I do agree that such a framework could be viable, if a more modern and workable system could be devised.

Preservation of the human race and it's environment is probably the best suggestion so far. But I would also like to add a short term goal which I am very much in favour of: Universal food, education, healthcare and housing for every single human being.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby morriswalters » Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:51 pm UTC

One good goal in my opinion is keeping the human race alive and in one piece to see if we can overcome our limitations and evolve, however at this moment I would opine that it doesn't look all that likely to occur.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Hedonic Treader » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:17 pm UTC

drunken wrote:Preservation of the human race and it's environment is probably the best suggestion so far.

You may want to think about suffering in the natrual world, too.

drunken wrote:and the idea mentioned earlier that we could base our goals on philosophical ideas of ethics such as utilitarianism.

You know, for utilitarianism, there may actually be something like an end game:

Utilitronium shockwave: A scenario in which all of the matter in the universe is optimized for maximum utility. Spreading outwards from the point of origin of the entity or entities who are converting the matter into utilitronium.

One of the most likely forms of Utilitronium is computronium that is being used to simulate minds experiencing the highest form of pleasure possible for a mind to experience.

Too bad it's science fiction from today's POV.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby krazykomrade » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:44 pm UTC

I don't agree with basing goals on outdated philosophical systems of ethics but I do agree that such a framework could be viable, if a more modern and workable system could be devised.

I really don't understand what you mean by "outdated"; what exactly about these systems makes them inapplicable or unworkable in 2010?

Utilitarianism was practically designed for the exact purpose you explained in your first post, that is to settle political and economic debates by giving them all a common goal, explaining what the root of all people's goals which we all already have, and explaining how we can evaluate a collection of various policy decisions to choose the most worthwhile to work towards. The fact that it was devised some time ago alone isn't really an argument against it.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby CorruptUser » Wed Oct 06, 2010 1:23 am UTC

Our first goal should be immortality as a species (or something close to it). That would make all other goals easier, unless the other goal is human extinction.

The easiest means of achieving this goal is to have another habitable planet, in case a disaster happens in this one.

Hands up; who here thinks that giving NASA a few hundred billion dollars (or much, much more) would do more to stimulate the economy that the stimulus bills have done?

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Vaniver » Wed Oct 06, 2010 1:43 am UTC

CorruptUser wrote:The easiest means of achieving this goal is to have another habitable planet, in case a disaster happens in this one.
If by "habitable" you mean "accessible within the ten thousand years," which is 25 times the length of time between now and the start of the Enlightenment, I'm afraid you're looking at a grand total of one planet.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby ddxxdd » Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:46 am UTC

drunken wrote:Seeing the many comments about the virtual impossibility of achieving a universal human goal I feel compelled to remind the thread that such a thing was never the purpose of this debate.
Greyarcher wrote:Humans don't operate as a unified harmonious bloc. It is only after much abstraction that you may arrive at a vague common goal.

So who wants to engage in much abstraction with me, for the purposes of clarifying our own ideas on the subject and promoting debate about it in general.

So far we have:
Sharlos wrote:To look beautiful, to cure old age, and to get rich are probably the main goals of a majority of humanity.

Only other worthwhile goal I can see being ideal for all of humanity to hold would be working to better preserve the human race's future and the environment we depend on


and the idea mentioned earlier that we could base our goals on philosophical ideas of ethics such as utilitarianism.

I think that beauty is a waste of time, and also that it should happen naturally as a consequence of fitness for purpose. Similarly curing old age seems to be a selfish and superficial goal, but nevertheless one which may prove desirable in the future from the collective point of view. Naturally new and better methods of contraception would be required to make it feasible. Contraception by the way, is a crucial goal in my opinion.

I dispute that getting rich is really a goal. I like to remind people that money is imaginary even though deep down most people already know that. People who strive to accumulate wealth are in fact striving to accumulate either power, or happiness. I pity those that pursue happiness through wealth greatly, and wish them the massive amount of luck that will be required for them to succeed in this goal. The accumulation of power however I don't pity. This is, in my opinion the real goal of human society at present. I would like to hear the opinions of others on this however.
I don't agree with basing goals on outdated philosophical systems of ethics but I do agree that such a framework could be viable, if a more modern and workable system could be devised.

Preservation of the human race and it's environment is probably the best suggestion so far. But I would also like to add a short term goal which I am very much in favour of: Universal food, education, healthcare and housing for every single human being.


I agree with these goals: Preservation, health, food, and shelter. In fact, it reminds me of something I learned in school that I just can't quite remember...

Oh yes!
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So I'd like to create an organized framework for developing humanity's goals:

1. Basic needs:
Spoiler:
a. We need to increase the quantity and diversity of food that is available to this planet. When you add jalapenos, olives, red peppers, green peppers, and other ingredients to your salad, you are not only making it more delicious, you're making it more nutritious. Delicious and nutritious food will let people grow taller, live longer, develop greater intellectual abilities, and look more attractive to the opposite sex.

b. We need to increase the size and quantity of houses in this country. I hate to say it, but despite the worldwide financial meltdown, we have accomplished a noble deed of building far, far more houses in the US than there were before. House prices will go down to reflect that, and there will be far more people who own a home than ever before.

c. We need to increase the level of purity in our water. Self explanatory.


2. Safety needs:
Spoiler:
a. We need to make our police force, fire departments, and military more effective. Whether this can be achieved through cameras on the streets of Chicago, or gun control laws in the city of St. Louis, or even investing in better school systems in Newark, NJ, we all should agree that the safer a neighborhood, the more opportunities arise there.

b. We need to invest in our infrastructure. I would like to see every house in Kansas tornado proof and every building of Los Angeles earthquake proof.


3. Psychological needs:
Spoiler:
a. We need to invest in communication. Faster broadband connections means a smoother video chat with Mom and Dad at home while you're away at college. Smoother cell phone reception means that you can talk more clearly with your friends.


4. Self Actualization needs:
Spoiler:
This arises mainly through the effort of the individual, given that the 3 previous goals are fulfilled. Give me food, safety, and human contact, and I'll join a basketball league that'll fulfill my life's desires.


Notice that I mentioned many specific social goals, such as increasing the food supply and making the police force more effective, that can turn into a more concrete economics or political debate.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Felipe Budinich » Wed Oct 06, 2010 5:03 am UTC

ddxxdd wrote:Notice that I mentioned many specific social goals, such as increasing the food supply and making the police force more effective, that can turn into a more concrete economics or political debate.


I'm positive, that there are no true "goals" for humanity, but I don't see the problem with that. Yet i can see why it is actually a good idea to go for the goals you propose.

But I disagree with the part I underscored. From my perspective, it would be better to reduce the need for such force. I'm aware that it is a must for our society, and that it should be effective, but i would like to focus my efforts on reducing the need for such force.

I've struggled at times with my own posture, just a few weeks ago, Chilean natives, specifically Mapuche folk, burned down a warehouse owned (and built) by my grandfather. At the moment i really wanted to scream "KILL THEM ALL! bring the armed forces on full force!". But that approach will never achieve long term resolution to the conflict, it will just become another violence spiral.

It's just so hard to define what would make that police force more "effective". I don't think that repression is the answer, usually long term solutions are not that complicated, they are just obfuscated.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby King Author » Wed Oct 06, 2010 2:18 pm UTC

Your topic question, drunken, presupposes that humanity lacks clearly-defined goals. That's simply not true. It's just that, there're so many people, so many social structures and so many goals, much becomes lost in the clutter. We aren't just blowing a shotgun at the problems before us -- we are making goals and then attempting to reach them. No goals are universal -- by definition, they can't be, because human lifestyles aren't universal; an American banker doesn't need to worry about goat diseases and a Bushman doesn't need to worry about the NASDAQ. Goals can only be set for a limited selection of people and in a limited fashion -- "humanity" can't have goals because "humanity" isn't a thinking, self-aware, independent and willful entity, it's just a pretty word for "all living humans."

The education system in America is shit; so much so that putting it any more eloquently is meaningless. For Americans, it would be advantageous to fix this system. That's a goal that Americans can work towards. But it's not something for "humanity" to consider because "humanity" isn't a thing the way you think it is.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby EdgarJPublius » Thu Oct 07, 2010 4:43 am UTC

In A general sense, the goals of humanity are the same as for any living thing: Survival and propagation of the species.

As Sentient beings, we can probably also add 'happiness' and 'survival and propagation of ideology' in there too, though where they fit in any hierarchy is going to be tricky, and likely highly dependent on the individual.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Jimmigee » Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:27 am UTC

King Author wrote:..."humanity" can't have goals because "humanity" isn't a thinking, self-aware, independent and willful entity, it's just a pretty word for "all living humans."
... That's a goal that Americans can work towards. But it's not something for "humanity" to consider because "humanity" isn't a thing the way you think it is.


I think I understand what you're saying, but these points seem contradictory. The collection of people that are Americans is no more a "thinking, self-aware and willful entity" than the collection of people making up "Humans", so if Americans can have a goal, why can't humans? I agree that the wider you cast your goal "net", the less the people within it are going to have in common, so the more general and basic the goals become. Like survival.

Once you're past the basics (the exact nature of which is debatable, and I think what this topic is really leading too) then really you're at the point of deciding what is more important, eg science, art, ever greater happiness. That is when it really comes down to the individual choice. So, I guess the goal of humanity is to reach a state where everyone can pursue their individual goals? Preferably with minimal interference from everyone elses goals!

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:46 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:The easiest means of achieving this goal is to have another habitable planet, in case a disaster happens in this one.
If by "habitable" you mean "accessible within the ten thousand years," which is 25 times the length of time between now and the start of the Enlightenment, I'm afraid you're looking at a grand total of one planet.


I think that's why he mentioned immortality. What's a 10,000 year journey if you've already lived for millions of years?
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby EdgarJPublius » Thu Oct 07, 2010 2:32 pm UTC

Where does ten thousand years come from?

Gliese 581 is only twenty light-years away, or a little less than two hundred years by Orion-craft (call it 210 if we started a program tomorrow)

And as we improve our methods and refine our search parameters, we could very easily find habitable planets closer to home.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Oct 07, 2010 3:12 pm UTC

Well something 1000 LY away would take 10,000 years at those speeds. It was really just a random "big" number I pulled out of the air. And I suspect you'd probably want to explore a sphere at least that big to have a decent chance at finding a good number of Earth-like rocks.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Andromeda321 » Fri Oct 08, 2010 4:39 am UTC

Is it bad if I read the title of this and thought first "wait, we were supposed to have goals?!"

Maybe I have a lighthearted view of things but in such conversations a certain Vonnegut quote comes to mind. "I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby SlyReaper » Fri Oct 08, 2010 6:46 am UTC

No, that's a reasonable thing to think. It's hard to imagine that we're here for any reason other than chemical interactions and horny ancestors.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby big boss » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:07 am UTC

Andromeda321 wrote:Is it bad if I read the title of this and thought first "wait, we were supposed to have goals?!"

Maybe I have a lighthearted view of things but in such conversations a certain Vonnegut quote comes to mind. "I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different."


To continue with Vonnegut quotes: "Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy" and "The purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."

Anyways I think its futile looking for goals of humanity, for all we know we were created by some all powerful race to be food for some other aliens in the future. I don't mean this to sound hedonistic or philosophical here but constantly looking for purpose in life takes the pleasure and beauty of life away (or maybe this is just a cop out since i don't know the answer... hmmm....)
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby CorruptUser » Fri Oct 08, 2010 7:36 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
CorruptUser wrote:The easiest means of achieving this goal is to have another habitable planet, in case a disaster happens in this one.
If by "habitable" you mean "accessible within the ten thousand years," which is 25 times the length of time between now and the start of the Enlightenment, I'm afraid you're looking at a grand total of one planet.


I think that's why he mentioned immortality. What's a 10,000 year journey if you've already lived for millions of years?


Immortality as a species, not necessarily as an individual, though that would be nice too. Although, I have to wonder if the human mind could even function for several hundred years, what with centuries of memories and all.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby elasto » Sat Oct 09, 2010 2:21 am UTC

It's been sort of linked in this thread already, but I find it hard to conceive of a higher or more worthy overall goal for humanity than this.

Kinda deserves its own thread, though (if it hasn't had one already).

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby meatyochre » Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:13 am UTC

Continuation of humanity is our only collective goal, just as it is with every species of life. Everything else is politics.

What SHOULD our goals be? Eh. Continuation of the species seems sufficiently noble for us animals, to me. Anything more is pure gravy. That's why I find movies like Idiocracy humorous, but ultimately not terribly disturbing. I don't care if humanity ends up dumbed down. I'd prefer humans to be happy than intelligent, as long as the species continues.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Vaniver » Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:38 am UTC

SlyReaper wrote:I think that's why he mentioned immortality. What's a 10,000 year journey if you've already lived for millions of years?
He mentioned "immortality as a species," not "immortality as individuals." The methodology to promote them are entirely separate: if you want to extend the lifespan of yourself or your near descendants out to the limit of accidental death, the best public works/research project is longevity studies, genetic engineering, and health expenditure; if you want to ensure humanity's survival through acquiring a second habitat (though, as many have argued before, the survival benefits from doing so are nowhere near commensurate with the cost, if they exist at all), you do so through colonization efforts.

EdgarJPublius wrote:Where does ten thousand years come from?
Cheop's Law and hyperbole, mostly. While it's theoretically possible to settle another solar system in a few centuries, I do not project it ever being desirable to do so (I also don't predict colonization of Mars ever being worthwhile).

elasto wrote:It's been sort of linked in this thread already, but I find it hard to conceive of a higher or more worthy overall goal for humanity than this.
Pain avoidance seems so... juvenile. I would rather run towards something than away from something.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby meatyochre » Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:47 am UTC

Pain avoidance seems so... juvenile. I would rather run towards something than away from something.

Some people get sick of running. Some have so much pain (emotional or physical) that they would rather die than continue to try to face it. So the choice is sometimes to either medicate the pain (with liquor, weed, various psychedelics, prescriptions), or commit suicide. Suicide runs counter to the primary purpose of life, which is to exist and propagate itself further.

It really just sounds like you're speaking from a privileged position as far as pain is concerned. If pain avoidance can seem juvenile to you, you must be living in a state of relatively high emotional and physical luxury.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby mmmcannibalism » Sat Oct 09, 2010 5:02 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:
Pain avoidance seems so... juvenile. I would rather run towards something than away from something.

Some people get sick of running. Some have so much pain (emotional or physical) that they would rather die than continue to try to face it. So the choice is sometimes to either medicate the pain (with liquor, weed, various psychedelics, prescriptions), or commit suicide. Suicide runs counter to the primary purpose of life, which is to exist and propagate itself further.

It really just sounds like you're speaking from a privileged position as far as pain is concerned. If pain avoidance can seem juvenile to you, you must be living in a state of relatively high emotional and physical luxury.


I would call living for happiness better then living to avoid pain.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:15 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:though, as many have argued before, the survival benefits from doing so are nowhere near commensurate with the cost, if they exist at all


I'm not sure how you weigh the cost of interplanetary colonization against certain and complete extinction, but I think you must be doing it wrong.

Cheop's Law and hyperbole, mostly. While it's theoretically possible to settle another solar system in a few centuries, I do not project it ever being desirable to do so (I also don't predict colonization of Mars ever being worthwhile).


The history of civilization has consistently been driven by two motives: Land and Resources (there are other driving forces too, but for the most part, they boil down to land and resources), and Mars has both.

We landed on the moon in a decade, I wouldn't put anything past Humanity.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Vaniver » Sat Oct 09, 2010 4:39 pm UTC

meatyochre wrote:It really just sounds like you're speaking from a privileged position as far as pain is concerned. If pain avoidance can seem juvenile to you, you must be living in a state of relatively high emotional and physical luxury.
This is sort of my point: pain avoidance is an issue early on but then dramatically reduces in importance. "Juvenile" may have been an offensive word to use, and I apologize for that- I did not intend any pejorative implications.

While mmmcannibalism gets close to my point, it's not even happiness that I'm interested in. I view satisfaction as more important than biochemical bliss; I'm more interested in human flourishing than human contentment.

EdgarJPublius wrote:I'm not sure how you weigh the cost of interplanetary colonization against certain and complete extinction, but I think you must be doing it wrong.
The argument goes like this: any terrestrial disaster (global warming, nuclear war, etc.) will still leave Earth more habitable than other planets, and any extrasolar disaster (gamma ray burst, etc.) is very unlikely to hit Earth and not whatever other planet we colonize. Disasters like an asteroid striking the Earth are far better and more cheaply averted by protecting the Earth than by finding a spare.

EdgarJPublius wrote:The history of civilization has consistently been driven by two motives: Land and Resources (there are other driving forces too, but for the most part, they boil down to land and resources), and Mars has both.

We landed on the moon in a decade, I wouldn't put anything past Humanity.
Second line first: I am willing to concede the possibility of colonizing other planets. We could put people on Mars in a decade if we wanted to.

I am entirely unwilling to concede that we would ever want to. The two arguments you mention for colonization- land and resources- fall flat upon examination. Land is cheap on Earth, both to buy and to maintain. Land on Mars is fantastically expensive, both to get to and keep livable. Rome expanded into Egypt, not the Sahara. And the Sahara is amazingly more hospitable than Mars. There is no resource on Mars that is expensive enough to justify transporting between Mars and Earth- even if we drain the Earth's crust of platinum, it will most likely be cheaper to forge it on the atomic level than to harvest it out of Mars.

I'd also suggest that's a misreading of the history of wealth. Japan is land-poor, resource-poor, and amazingly wealthy. Wealth can come from land and resources, but primarily comes from the human mind- and the wealthiest parts of the world today are high-population-density areas where people are connected with many other people and are free to think and invent. Most of the developing world has plenty of land and resources but is not able to fully harness the human mind. What would need to be on Mars for any scientist, engineer, or programmer to move someplace inhospitable where communication with the rest of humanity will be delayed by only three minutes at the most opportune periods of the year, and Amazon deliveries take at least 9 months? Sure, scientists whose primary area of study is Mars would benefit from closeness, but for every branch of study that isn't looking at a rock the opportunities provided by community are more important.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:19 pm UTC

Lost a post so I'll be brief:

GRB and such are only a threat to the planets within one system, so interstellar colonization is still highly beneficial from a survival stand-point. Coronal mass Ejections are only dangerous to one or a small number of planets at a time, so interplanetary colonization is still beneficial from a survival stand-point as well.

However cheap and plentiful land and resources are now, they are still finite. Asteroid and lunar colonization are probably better short term solutions to this than outright Mars colonization, but asteroid and lunar colonization break down many barriers to martian colonization in the long term, making it more likely we will eventually go.

The Japan example falls flat, Japan was very imperialist until the mid-twentieth century, and still maintains a hefty imperialist attitude in business and financial activities, Japanes
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sat Oct 09, 2010 7:24 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:I am entirely unwilling to concede that we would ever want to. The two arguments you mention for colonization- land and resources- fall flat upon examination. Land is cheap on Earth, both to buy and to maintain. Land on Mars is fantastically expensive, both to get to and keep livable. Rome expanded into Egypt, not the Sahara. And the Sahara is amazingly more hospitable than Mars. There is no resource on Mars that is expensive enough to justify transporting between Mars and Earth- even if we drain the Earth's crust of platinum, it will most likely be cheaper to forge it on the atomic level than to harvest it out of Mars.

There's a non-trivial probability that by the end of this century, there exist intelligent minds in physical shapes for whom both the Sahara and Mars are perfectly habitable. Even before that, there may be technologies that make automated resource mining, processing, and transportation on extraterrestrial levels economically worthwhile. Imagine automated mining and factory modules that can produce other mining and factory modules, and so on. All it takes is an initial technological research effort and a successful start on a planet or asteroid that has the appropriate resources and conditions. After that, the system practically pays for itself.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Sat Oct 09, 2010 8:59 pm UTC

meatyochre wrote:Continuation of humanity is our only collective goal, just as it is with every species of life. Everything else is politics.

What SHOULD our goals be? Eh. Continuation of the species seems sufficiently noble for us animals, to me. Anything more is pure gravy. That's why I find movies like Idiocracy humorous, but ultimately not terribly disturbing. I don't care if humanity ends up dumbed down. I'd prefer humans to be happy than intelligent, as long as the species continues.

I agree that the continuation of the species is the only objective goal, because all other goals require existence to accomplish. It's the root of all goals.

As for dumbing down the species, that doesn't sound like a good long term decision. :?

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby Hedonic Treader » Sat Oct 09, 2010 10:25 pm UTC

SpazzyMcGee wrote:I agree that the continuation of the species is the only objective goal, because all other goals require existence to accomplish. It's the root of all goals.

Well... no. For instance, the abolishment of suffering could be achieved precisely by extinction. Nucleating a bubble of vacuum decay would certainly end all suffering in almost our entire future lightcone.

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby SpazzyMcGee » Sun Oct 10, 2010 12:09 am UTC

Hedonic Treader wrote:
SpazzyMcGee wrote:I agree that the continuation of the species is the only objective goal, because all other goals require existence to accomplish. It's the root of all goals.

Well... no. For instance, the abolishment of suffering could be achieved precisely by extinction. Nucleating a bubble of vacuum decay would certainly end all suffering in almost our entire future lightcone.

I suppose I should have said "all other not-stupid goals or not-stupidly-executed goals require existence...". :mrgreen:

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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby drunken » Sun Oct 10, 2010 2:31 am UTC

King Author wrote:"humanity" isn't a thinking, self-aware, independent and willful entity


Interesting hypothesis, I would love to hear your reasoning behind it.

King Author wrote:I understand and I really appreciate that you're trying to be philosophical, I do, but you've failed. I think you're probably young and lack wide life experiences (especially since you think any noteworthy problem could be considered "trivial and obvious" if only people would stop to think about them) and have a terrible misconception of the way other people's minds work. The world doesn't have problems because nobody tries to come up with solutions, or because most people are unthinking drones, or because we don't philosophize enough, and certainly not because we don't have goals; the world has problems because people have legitimate disagreements on specific, limited social phenomenon, and vy for dominance on the issue.


Many noteworthy problems solved in the past are trivial and obvious in hindsight. [snip] - Az It seems to me the problems of the world are not a product of simple disagreement on limited social phenomena. There are aspects of human life, for example genocide, that virtually no one agrees are good or should be continued, and yet they persist. Of course there are a few people who want genocide or it would never happen but our failure to stop it is not out of respect for legitimate disagreement. The problems of our modern world are in many cases contrary to an existing consensus and I find it absurd to say that consensus is impossible and therefore solutions are impossible.

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For me the opposite is true. While I might make a distinction between purpose (implying an intrinsic quality) and goals (implying purpose you make for yourself at will), I find that searching for new goals is the main source of pleasure and beauty in my life and knowing the answer would simply result in a new search for a different purpose.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby meatyochre » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:51 am UTC

SpazzyMcGee wrote:I agree that the continuation of the species is the only objective goal, because all other goals require existence to accomplish. It's the root of all goals.

As for dumbing down the species, that doesn't sound like a good long term decision. :?

First of all, nobody would decide to dumb down humanity, so there's no goodness or badness to judge. It would just happen evolutionarily (if it happened at all). Since we can't predict the future, it's all hypothetical. However, there's no reason to think that a "dumbing-down" of our species would be disadvantageous or undesirable, either. Some people think of monkeys as pretty dumb relative to humans, but they're still around and have been much longer than us. Insects are even dumber and have been around even longer than both.

Taking Idiocracy as an example... At one point the female lead in Idiocracy asks (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "Do you think Einstein walked around thinkin' everyone was a buncha dumbshits?" The people seemed pretty happy most of the time, even though we as outsiders are supposed to find their lack of intellect humorous. Dogs and cats seem pretty happy most of the time, as long as their basic life needs are met. Do rabbits worry about tomorrow? Is a fish ever unhappy? Certainly it may feel pain when you catch it, and will defend against any pain to continue living, but is it future-seeing? Can a mosquito feel sadness?

The smarter a species is, the higher its capacity for unhappiness and destruction. I would argue that a dumber humanity could be an improved humanity, from an evolutionary standpoint.
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Re: The goal of humanity

Postby krazykomrade » Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:13 am UTC

Taking Idiocracy as an example... At one point the female lead in Idiocracy asks (I'm paraphrasing from memory), "Do you think Einstein walked around thinkin' everyone was a buncha dumbshits?" The people seemed pretty happy most of the time, even though we as outsiders are supposed to find their lack of intellect humorous. Dogs and cats seem pretty happy most of the time, as long as their basic life needs are met. Do rabbits worry about tomorrow? Is a fish ever unhappy? Certainly it may feel pain when you catch it, and will defend against any pain to continue living, but is it future-seeing? Can a mosquito feel sadness?

Is happiness really the only, or even most important, thing about being alive?

Supposing it is, are there not higher and lower levels of that happiness (ie, the pleasure from being moved by music or a work of art versus mere physical satisfaction of sex or having one's basic needs met)? Dogs don't seem to worry about their own mortality, but also seem incapable of experiencing many things of great value as well.


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